Health visitors report increase in children's communication difficulties

News - 24 Mar 2017

Evidence submitted to the Bercow: Ten Years On review into children and young people’s speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) from the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) has revealed an 8% rise in health visitors reporting that they are seeing higher numbers of children with delayed language, with the number increasing from 64% in 2015 to 72% in 2016.

The iHV evidence shows that nearly three quarters (72%) of health visitors that responded to the 2016 survey reported an increase in children with delayed speech and communication development. This means they may use simpler sentences, fewer words and struggle to understand the same instructions as their peers.

This evidence submission coincides with the launch of the parent and carer consultation for Bercow: Ten Years On – an independent review into the state of provision for children and young people’s SLCN run by I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT).

The final report and recommendations will be published in 2018, marking 10 years since the Government published The Bercow Report: a Review of Services for Children and Young People (0-19) with Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

Jean Gross, Chair of Bercow: Ten Years On and former government Communication Champion for children, said: “In 2008, the original Bercow Review showed that around two-thirds of parents and carers that responded felt that information about support for children was not easily available, and nearly 40% said that the quality of information was poor. That was damning evidence that things needed to improve. But have they? That is what we need to find out.

“The Institute of Health Visiting’s evidence highlights a worrying trend in health visitors reporting a rise in children with delayed language. Now is the time to find out how parents and carers really feel about the reality of the SLCN support they have received for their child so we can understand what, if anything, has changed over the past decade. We are asking them to speak out so we can ensure that the Bercow: Ten Years On recommendations about information and provision are firmly rooted in their experience.”

Elizabeth Stanley, National Rep for the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF), said: “Ensuring that parents and families have a good understanding of how best to support their child’s development is vitally important in improving outcomes for children and young people. Being able to communicate is an essential part of life; we need parents, carers, professionals and organisations to listen to each other and work together in a collaborative way to improve the lives of our children.

Bercow: Ten Years On needs to learn from those families receiving good support for their child as well as those who feel it is not so good. This will ensure that recommendations can include ways to replicate best practice. It is therefore imperative that parents and carers use the survey as a platform to share their experiences and contribute to the evidence base.”

The iHV statistics follow the recent announcement that health visitor checks will remain mandatory in the early years, which includes checks to identify language difficulties in children at a young age.

Parents and carers can directly take part in Bercow: Ten Years On by completing a short survey online (closing June 2017). In addition, practitioners can access early-years, primary and secondary activity packs that can be carried out with parents and carers in local settings.

Further information is available at www.ican.org.uk/Bercowsurvey.

Find out more about Bercow: Ten Years On visit www.ican.org.uk/Bercow or follow #Bercow10years on social media.

 

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